United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
TODD R. BLACK, Plaintiff,
THOMAS MACKIE et al. Defendants.
L. Maloney United States District Judge
a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act,
Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court
is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under
federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se
complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations
as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly
incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33
(1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss
Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim
against Defendants Mackie, Ball, Mitchell, and Goodspeed. The
Court also will dismiss one part of Plaintiff's Eighth
Amendment claim against Defendants Hill, Keeler, and Biddle.
The Court will serve the remainder of the complaint against
Defendants Hill, Keeler, and Biddle.
presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at the Saginaw County Correctional
Facility (SRF) in Freeland, Saginaw County, Michigan. The
events about which he complains, however, occurred at the
Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF) in Manistee, Manistee
County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the following ECF officials:
Warden Thomas Mackie; Deputy Warden (unknown) Ball; Sergeant
(unknown) Mitchell; Correctional Officers (unknown) Hill,
(unknown) Keeler, and (unknown) Biddle; and Hearing
Investigator (unknown) Goodspeed.
alleges that, on July 7, 2015, at about 6:10 p.m., he was
awaiting his law library callout, which was supposed to begin
at 6:15 p.m.. At the last minute, an officer announced that
the library computers were down and instructed those inmates
who still wished to proceed with the callout to press their
emergency response buttons. Plaintiff claims that he pushed
his button as instructed “for approximately 8 minutes
after 18:10 pm.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) At 6:33
p.m., officers announced that showers were beginning, and the
cell doors opened. Plaintiff had to rush to disrobe and grab
his shower items, as he was still dressed in his state blues
for library callout. As he turned to leave the cell, he saw
that the cell door was closing. He ran through the opening,
but the cell door closed on him. Plaintiff screamed for help,
but Defendant Correctional Officers Hill, Biddle, and Keeler
allegedly ignored him, even after he pushed his emergency
response button. Plaintiff eventually succeeded in freeing
himself from the door, though he came close to passing out,
because he could not breathe.
looked at the control bubble. As he did so, he saw Defendants
Hill and Keeler turn their backs on him simultaneously,
pretending that they did not see Plaintiff being trapped in
the cell door and did not hear his screams. Plaintiff walked
to the control bubble to ask Defendants Hill, Keeler, and
Biddle why they had not released him from the cell door. At
the control center, Plaintiff asked to speak with the shift
commander, but Defendant Hill denied his request. Defendant
Hill then instructed Plaintiff to go back to his cell and
lock down. Plaintiff refused, again declaring that he wanted
to speak with a sergeant. Defendant Hill told Plaintiff to
turn around and to put his hands behind his back for
handcuffing. Plaintiff apparently complied with the second
order. Defendants Keeler and Biddle escorted Plaintiff to
segregation, Plaintiff asked the officers if he could get
medical attention, as his chest was hurting and he was
asthmatic. Plaintiff does not indicate whether he was given
medical attention, and he makes no further allegations
concerning his injuries or health. When Plaintiff reached
segregation, he explained to Defendant Mitchell what had
happened. Defendant Mitchell left, but returned sometime
later to explain to Plaintiff that Mitchell had viewed the
video and that nothing had happened. At approximately 7:00
p.m. on July 7, 2015, Defendant Hill wrote a Class-II
misconduct charge against Plaintiff for disobeying a direct
order. When Defendant Mitchell reviewed the misconduct
charge, he elevated it to a Class-I misconduct charge and
informed Plaintiff that he was confined to segregation.
9, 2015, Defendant Goodspeed interviewed Plaintiff on the
misconduct charge. Goodspeed informed Plaintiff that a camera
recorded the incident at Plaintiff's cell, but no camera
was pointed at the control room during the time Plaintiff was
trapped. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Goodspeed did not
perform his job adequately. On July 16, 2015, a Class-I
misconduct hearing was conducted by Hearing Officer S. Burke.
According to Burke's hearing report, Plaintiff admitted
that he had refused to obey the order to return to his cell,
because staff had assaulted him. Burke reported that she had
reviewed the video, which showed that Plaintiff attempted to
leave his cell as the door was closing. Burke asked Defendant
Goodspeed to investigate whether the doors were
malfunctioning at the time, and Goodspeed reported that they
were not. Because the doors were not malfunctioning, Burke
concluded that Plaintiff was not in any danger if he complied
with the order to return to his cell. As a consequence, Burke
found that compliance with the order was physically possible.
Plaintiff therefore was found guilty of the misconduct charge
and sanctioned with five days of detention. (Misconduct
Hr'g Report, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.12.) As a result of the
misconduct conviction, Plaintiff was reclassified to
administrative segregation by the security classification
committee. (Security Reclassification Notice, ECF No. 1-1,
interim, on July 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed a grievance,
complaining that the second-shift correctional officers,
including Defendant Hill, intentionally kept closing the door
on him. Defendant Mitchell and Lieutenant Boerema (not a
defendant) denied the grievance on August 19, 2015. The
grievance response indicated that the video clearly showed
the door closing, Plaintiff attempting to leave while the
door was closing, and Plaintiff attempting to block the door
from closing. (Step-I Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1,
PageID.16, 21.) Plaintiff appealed his grievance to Step II.
Defendant Mackie denied the grievance on September 4, 2015,
finding that Plaintiff had attempted to leave the cell after
the door began to close, thereby failing to exercise due
caution for his own safety. (Step-II Grievance Response, ECF
No. 1-1, PageID.26.) Plaintiff filed a Step-II grievance
appeal, which was denied on March 8, 2016.
alleges that Defendants Hill, Biddle, Keeler, and Mitchell
assaulted him, presumably in violation of Plaintiff's
rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff also contends
that Defendants Mackie and Goodspeed failed to conduct a
proper investigation into the incident, either in the
grievance proceedings or the misconduct proceedings.
seeks a variety of injunctive relief. Specifically, seeks to
have assault charges brought against Defendants Hill, Biddle,
Keeler, and Mitchell. He also seeks to have Defendant Warden
Mackie demoted to a correctional officer and to have
Defendant Goodspeed fired from his position. Plaintiff also
seeks damages in the amount of $5.5 million.
Failure to state a claim
complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it
fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations
must include more than labels and conclusions.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The
court must determine whether the complaint contains
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent
to a “‘probability requirement,' . . . it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here
the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding
that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies
to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege the violation of a right secured by the federal
Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was
committed by a person acting under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street
v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir.
1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating
federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself,
the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify
the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed.
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).
It is a
basic pleading essential that a plaintiff attribute factual
allegations to particular defendants. See Twombly,
550 U.S. at 544 (holding that, in order to state a claim, a
plaintiff must make sufficient allegations to give a
defendant fair notice of the claim). Where a person is named
as a defendant without an allegation of specific conduct, the
complaint is subject to dismissal, even under the liberal
construction afforded to pro se complaints. See
Frazier v. Michigan, 41 Fed.Appx. 762, 764 (6th Cir.
2002) (dismissing the plaintiff's claims where the
complaint did not allege with any degree of specificity which
of the named defendants were personally involved in or
responsible for each alleged violation of rights);
Griffin v. Montgomery, No. 00-3402, 2000 WL 1800569,
at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 30, 2000) (requiring allegations of
personal involvement against each defendant)); Rodriguez
v. Jabe, No. 90-1010, 1990 WL 82722, at *1 (6th Cir.
June 19, 1990) (“Plaintiff's claims against those
individuals are without a basis in law as the complaint is
totally devoid of allegations as to them which would suggest
their involvement in the events leading to his
injuries.”); see also Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d
496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994); Krych v. Hvass, 83
Fed.Appx. 854, 855 (8th Cir. 2003); Potter v. Clark,
497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974); Williams v.
Hopkins, No. 06-14064, 2007 WL 2572406, at *4 (E.D.
Mich. Sept. 6, 2007); McCoy v. McBride, No.
3:96-cv-227RP, 1996 WL 697937, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 5,
1996); Eckford-El v. Toombs, 760 F.Supp. 1267,
1272-73 (W.D. Mich. 1991). Plaintiff fails to even mention
Defendant Ball in the body of his complaint. His allegations
fall far short of the minimal pleading standards under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (requiring “a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief”). The Court therefore will dismiss Defendant
Ball for lack of allegations.
Supervisory Liability - Defendants Mackie & Mitchell
fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendant
Mackie, though he suggests that Mackie inadequately or
erroneously responded to Plaintiff's Step-II grievance or
that Mackie failed to supervise his subordinates. Plaintiff
also suggests that Defendant Mitchell mishandled his ...